Astor, William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount

Astor, William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount, 1848–1919, American-British financier, b. New York City, educated in Germany and in Italy and at the Columbia law school; son of John Jacob Astor (1822–90). He served as a state assemblyman and senator, but his political career was halted by his failure to win an election to the U.S. Congress. He was then appointed minister to Italy (1881–85). In 1890 he moved to England, where he acquired control of a newspaper and several magazines. He also founded—mainly to forward the literary ambition he had shown in two mediocre novels—Pall Mall Magazine. His estates, Cliveden and Hever Castle, were magnificent, his entertainments extravagant, his contributions to public causes—especially in World War I—munificent. He was made a baron in 1916 and a viscount in 1917.

His elder son, Waldorf Astor, 1879–1952, succeeded him as viscount and was a leader of “Tory democracy.” His wife was Nancy, Lady Astor. The younger son, John Jacob Astor, 1886–1971, bought a major share of The Times of London and was made 1st Baron Astor of Hever.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Business Leaders